Time to Try Something New?

Time to Try Something New?

I’ll be posting here regularly about community supported agriculture (CSA) and my own personal experiences with tasty, organic produce from my local CSA.

455142_bell_peppersLast week I was pretty excited to pick up my first bag of CSA goodies, and I have to say it did not disappoint. There was the biggest sweet potato I have ever seen (seriously, it was like a bowling ball), some extra-crispy green beans, a couple of tomatoes, some leafy stuff I didn’t recognize (Chinese cabbage, it turns out), a couple of yellow squash, and three brightly-colored bell peppers. A pretty good haul overall, although I was a little discouraged by the bell peppers, which, if I’m being honest, isn’t the CSA’s fault: I just really dislike bell peppers. Like, a whole lot, which is a shame, because people add them to all sorts of otherwise tasty things: stir-fry, mac and cheese, pizza. The list goes on. Squash, too, has never been one of my favorite foods, possibly because I was forced to eat so, so much zucchini as a child (thanks, mom and dad!).

Now, up until a few years ago I had always just assumed that the foods you hated were the foods you hated, end of story. If you grew up hating carrots, chances are you would always hate them. It was a just a fact of life, built into your DNA and nurtured during fights at the childhood dinner table. Then, as an adult, I rediscovered tea. Earl Gray, Darjeeling, Oolong—suddenly I couldn’t get enough of a drink that I used to despise. Spurred by my new favorite drink, I felt bold enough to try a few of the other foods I used to hate, and now spinach and sweet potatoes are a few of my staples.

There are all kinds of scientific studies out there showing that I’m not alone: most people tolerate a wider range of foods as they get older. These same scientists have a number of theories about why that is, all of which revolve around changes to the taste buds—those bumps on your tongue that harbor hundreds of cells designed to suss out sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and the savory flavor that comes from MSG.

My favorite theory about why your palette changes over time is that, just like your eyes and ears, your taste buds dull with age. So, the bitterness in a cup of coffee or bite of spinach that might have made you recoil in horror as a child doesn’t taste nearly as strong when you’re an adult. And it’s not just the quality of those taste-receptor cells that makes raw vegetables suddenly taste good: children also have more taste buds than adults, so strong flavors can be overwhelming to them (keep that in mind the next time your child grimaces at a mouthful of healthy greens!).

All of which is to say, I thought I’d give bell peppers another try. I started simple, with chopped bell peppers on a parmesan Panini, and I also tried tossing a handful into my standard spaghetti sauce. The results were colorful and crunchy, but I have to say, despite all that science, they still made me choke like a little kid at the salad bar. Apparently my taste buds haven’t worn down enough for bell peppers quite yet.

The week wasn’t a total failure for me when it comes to new veggies, though. I tried a number of squash dishes, and each of them turned out great. Below you’ll find my favorite, a potato and squash gratin that was absolutely fantastic. I recommend you give it a try, or, better yet, go out and find a new recipe for some vegetable that you’ve always hated—maybe today will be the day you discover what you’ve been missing all these years!

Recipe of the week: Potato and Squash Casserole

2 yellow squash

4-5 medium-sized yellow or red potatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

4 ounces goat cheese

¼ cup milk

¼ cup parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400° and lightly grease a 2–quart casserole dish.

2. Cut the squash and potatoes into 1/8 inch slices. The recipe I used recommended getting them as thin as possible, but I found that the slightly thicker slices that resulted from my terrible knife skills worked fine.

3. Toss the vegetables in olive oil, salt, and pepper.

4. Layer the veggies and goat cheese in the dish. It should be more like a casserole than a lasagna: in other words, it’s less important that the layers be distinct and more important that everything be mixed well.

5. Pour the milk over the top and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.

6. Bake covered at 400° for 30 minutes, then uncover and cook for another 15 minutes until the cheese has browned.

Previous Posts:

Adventures in Community Supported Agriculture

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